Friday, October 29, 2010

Something Rank (#36-33)

When it comes to slasher films, it's all a matter of taste. Arguably a lack thereof. Some are tightly wound suspense vehicles, others mere money making ventures with a body count. With this series I'll be counting down (rather counting up) the franchise fare of the four major celluloid boogeymen: Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and everyone's favorite transvestite country bumpkin, Leatherface. From worst to best, a grand total of 36 films -- there's so much pleasure to be found in absolute disgust! Brace yourselves, it gets BAD before it gets sublime.

(See also: Glenn's delightful countdown over at Stale Popcorn.)

(#36) Texas Chainsaw Massacre:
The Next Generation

Kim Henkel, co-creator of the TCM franchise, finds himself wielding a really blunt, heavy object as director of this sad attempt at a remake and series reinvention. Apparently, much like people, you can cannibalize your own movie.

Hot, robo-legged Matthew McConaughey and dowdy buzzkill Renee Zellweger (she's smart because she wears glasses!) tried to sweep this title under the cheaply made rug upon their rise to superstardom. It's completely understandable given just how nonsensical, noisy and annoying this film is. If you thought wheelchair-bound Franklin was grating, try an entire film populated by his more obnoxious, asshole friends he met through regional theatre. The original's infamous meat hook, moonlit chase and dinner scenes are re-imagined without an ounce of imagination, trading in momentum for more of the same (now with cursing). While it's charming to see the millisecond cameos of Paul Partain and Marilyn Burns from the 1974 classic (wisely credited as Anonymous), it requires you to suffer through all that shoddy screeching and parading white trash. Part remake, all regrettable.

Killer Looks:

1) Vintage Casual

2) "Mama's Family"

3) The Delta Burke (?)

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#35) Friday the 13th (2009)

"Jason! Say bye to Mommy... (long pause) In hell!"

I worry that the writers of these Platinum Dunes remakes really are as stoned and insipid as the cardboard characters they write. This movie is the equivalent of a douchebag wearing Abercrombie and Fitch, shotgunning a beer and mistreating his (admittedly dumb) girlfriend. The entire affair leaves me as blank and expressionless as Jared Padalecki. I know the intent is to have the annoyance build to cheer upon these characters explicit, inevitable ends, but everything here is so run-of-the-mill and passionless. Marcus Nispel gave his earlier revamp of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a bit of bite, but this remake is as disposable as its cast. The deaths are brutal, Jason's a menacing bodybuilder, but all in a "blink-and-you-won't-care-if-you-missed-it" sort of way. It's such a humdrum outing that the entire notion of a remake is tossed off as Mrs. Voorhees is beheaded with a shrug mid-credits, and Jason's iconic, series-making mask is donned when he... finds it on a floor somewhere. Even a movie monster legend like Jason Voorhees - the sole reason for this existing - bores this movie.

Killer Looks:

1) Backwoods Sensible

2) "Hey, free mask!"

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#34) Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

"Trick or treat, Motherfucker!" -- Busta Rhymes

Laurie Strode returns (under contractual obligation)! A survivor of her brother's holiday-hate wraith of 25 years, a character we've come to know and love -- her wit and maturity traded for a heinous wig and a psych ward. The lowest blow? Jamie Lee Curtis's iconic Final Girl is killed off in the very opening -- a slack finale decades in the making. Laurie's stabbed, she kisses Michael (they're siblings, but seriously?), then says, "I'll see you in hell!" Then she... falls into a tree?

It's all so disrespectful to fans and none of it makes much sense, especially not the poor excuse for Michael even existing after Halloween H20's powerhouse beheading. About as careless a sequel as there ever has been, this eighth entry dares to answer what would happen when Michael Myers meets the technological age. Too bad nobody asked the question.

"Michael Myers is not a sound byte, a spin-off,
a tie-in, some kind of celebrity scandal.

Michael Myers is a killer shark in baggy ass overalls..."

--Busta Rhymes

I certainly didn't ask to see Tyra Banks, smiling with her eyes before packing her bags and being sent home... forever. And NO ONE begged to see Busta Rhymes battling Michael Myers with Kung Fu. Maybe on YouTube but not in a sequel to a horror classic. Director Rick Rosenthal's responsible for one franchise high (Halloween II) and one serious franchise LOW. Good rule of thumb: If a film wants to be meta, it has to be self-aware first.

Killer Looks:

1) Bad Times
2) Bad Rhymes

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#33) A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Thanks again, Platinum Dunes. No one's having trouble sleeping after this one. Samuel Bayer's remake is a bit like overdosing on NyQuil. Things are happening around you, but you're constantly fighting off the urge to sleep or purge. Time for a micro-nap, which is basically one of the only inventions this film has to offer. Otherwise it cycles through familiar setups, doses them with CGI, and stumbles toward perfunctory. While the film further accentuates Freddy's pedophile past, it's as unnecessary as everything else here. A film about a killer desecrating us at the very source of our inspiration should require some... inspiration. A new legacy isn't going to be born from subpar references to an existing one. Freddy Kruger's dark and dastardly once again, but way too often in the light. No longer a bedtime boogeyman, he's just a razor-knuckled nuisance. Freddy, you talk too much.

Killer Likes:

1) Gardening

2) Molestation

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: #32-29.

Jason's caught between the moon and New York City...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Love and Other Hardcore Drugs

Virgin Viewings for September

directed by: Gaspar Noe
written by: Gaspar Noe, Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) dies during a botched drug deal in Tokyo while dosing on DMT. Life and death flash before his eyes as Oscar tries to hold on to a childhood promise made to his struggling sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta).

According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, when you die you float above your life in an astral sort of abyss. If you plan on dying in Tokyo, make sure you're not epileptic. Gaspar Noe's latest stylistic descent, Enter the Void, is a deliriously vivid look into everything from birth to death, to everything before, after or inbetween.

It's cyclical, seizure-strobing, arthouse entertainment that takes great leaps in technical innovation to tell a rather simplistic story, all through the grandiose scope of the existential. As visually vibrant as its characters are dim, Noe's film feels like that rare feat of cult filmmaking with the budget to match its stoner-influenced audacity. It's a full-fledged cinematic experience of the variety I haven't seen since David Lynch's Inland Empire; another work so immersed in its own trippy wavelength that it serves up marvel and annoyance in equal measure (although Noe's film is notably more straightforward -- glowstick genitals, cumshot POV's and all). I was witness to several walkouts at my screening (and several walk-ins upon the sound of orgasm), as well as people bracing their heads between their legs as the strobe white flickers forced them to pretend to be tying their shoelaces over and over again. That certainly didn't happen when I saw Inception, a film that most seem to praise as the year's biggest headtrip. Where Inception has to tell you that you're in a dream (...and tell you ...and tell you), Enter the Void trips, floats, freefalls, glides and penetrates the dream state head on.

It's a bit like 2001: A Space Odyssey's visionary trip to Jupiter, accompanied by a pipe and an erection. Noe's collision of imagery and sound is utterly spectacular as it hovers through all sorts of existential dread. Even the opening credit sequence outdoes most feature films in its pure cinematic assault. It's all so fluid, innovative and abrasive, that it's like a psychedelic rollercoaster diving into an oncoming truck, or an airplane mid-flight. Even at its most repetitive (there's a whole lot of soaring between lights, and Paz de la Huerta sounding raspy and bored), it has a cumulative tenacity and aura that is simply unforgettable. Destined for stoner cinephile infamy, Enter the Void is pure cinema that I'm oh so happy to inhale.

Even with his penchant for plummeting headfirst into grim material such as rape, abortion, murder and incest in films like I Stand Alone and Irreversible, I still consider this statement to be the most shocking thing Gaspar Noe's ever done:

Do you have any American actors you'd want to work with?

I guess just the ones who are my friends. The last one I saw was really pretty... what was her name... Kristen Stewart, the one who was in "Twilight." She has such an expressive face.

Like a fire extinguisher to the face, that's bold and shocking!

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Orgasm

directed by: Ken Russell
written by: Barry Sandler

Clothing designer Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) sidelines as a prostitute names China Blue, who becomes savior to a bitterly married man (John Laughlin). Meanwhile a maniacally obsessed reverend (Anthony Perkins) wants to be China Blue's client, savior, and ultimately her killer.

Love is...
never having to say you're seeking sex
outside the marriage.

Something akin to Eyes Wide Shut on poppers, Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion is a unique satire of relationships and American sexual mores. It's erotica at its most repugnant, equal parts fascinating and dull, clever and ill-conceived. Inbetween China Blue's business transactions are inserts of the Kama Sutra, even a short film featuring a wedded couple, their skeletons and caged birds. It's either an artistically charged meditation on love and sex that has been dunked in smut, or it's just smut with artsy pretensions. Either way works, but I'm not sure this film does completely. Then again, I'm not sure I'd have it any other way.

Russell's film (as should be expected) is bonkers. It's an ode to warped desires that has the gall to once again humiliate Anthony Perkins with an ugly wig and a dress, and a doctor's bag of sex toys that includes a vibrator esteemed for its ability to give less pleasure than pain. Perhaps it's best not to detail Kathleen Turner's use of a nightstick on her cop clientele, or Perkins fucking a blow up doll until it bleeds. The mere fact that I can even mention a film with such scenes is reason enough for this one to exist.

What a world of respect I have for Kathleen Turner, who has plenty of sordid fun with her role, from her soulful speeches as Miss Liberty, to her petrified popping of bubblegum. What a wealth of varied delights through her filmography as well -- from sexpot (Body Heat) to savage (War of the Roses), sociopathic (Serial Mom) to stifled (The Virgin Suicides). Crimes of Passion gives her plenty to play with, both in terms of delicious dialogue and dirty deeds, and Turner is one of the few actresses I could imagine would be game.

Love interest John Laughlin is charming in a bland, I've-forgotten-everything-about-the-man kind of way. Their love story is supposedly profound, but only given the fact that China's clearly whacked and Laughlin's wife (Annie Potts of Designing Women!) is a one-note icy bitch. Perhaps it's because Laughlin's lack of personality has been nicely veiled by his nice, athletic figure. His "Human Penis" party gag alone is reason enough for his wife to divorce him. It really is the perfect way to say to your friends, "My wife and I have a miserable, sexless marriage, and I'm a walking hard-on!"

And Anthony Perkins as Reverend Repression... oh how he does sexually disturbed psychos proud. If once we were led to believe he would never harm a fly, we now can't help but believe he's a closeted transvestite nutjob. That we can have faith in.

Ken Russell's directorial hand is both deft and clumsy, maybe intentionally so. For every sharply written scene and stylistic flourish, there's a humdrum commentary on marriage, or a hideous synth score by Rick Wakeman (think Civil War anthem on Casio keyboard) to bring it right back down the ladder. I can't help but admire it all the same in a very sick, senseless way. It's often called a masterpiece, and I'm fine with such acclaim being heaped on anything this debauched. Like a stroll through the red light district, it's a curious detour that makes you feel both titillated and gross. But like any marriage, it definitely hits some rough patches.